Please help CHOICE understand your connected home


At CHOICE we always want to know what consumer problems we can help you solve. And these days many of us have a new frustration in our lives: wrangling all the internet-connected gadgets that we have in our homes. For my family just watching TV last night involved two remote controls, fetching new batteries for the Bluetooth keyboard and then pairing it again, remembering a password, and then power-cycling the router and modem when the Internet slowed to a crawl three quarters of the way through a show. But really I count myself lucky that my toaster and DVR hadn’t been busily attacking core DNS infrastructure all night.

So: we’ve decided to see whether it’s just us, or whether our community members are also finding yourselves with a nest of connected devices to manage, and if so how you’re doing it. While looking into this we found a brilliant team of design researchers in the UK called IF, and asked if they’d like to work on the question together.

They agreed. So please allow me to introduce our research partners, @ihutc and @LangPhil from IF. Here’s their survey, and now I’ll let them take it from here.


We have 8 remote controls on the family room bench:

  1. the TV
  2. the receiver for the audio player and the audio connections for the other devices to go to the 5:1 sound system
  3. the big screen up/down
  4. the large screen projector
  5. Foxtel
  6. the Telstra-Roku streaming box
  7. the Blu-Ray player
  8. Wii-U.

There isn’t a universal remote control that supports all the functions of each remote so we are forever looking for the correct remote to manage the correct device.

I wish I could connect multiple phones to the bluetooth in the car but I can only connect one at the time and sometimes the wrong one connects if I have family members in the car.

The radio frequency mice for the family laptops interfere with each other.

I don’t have a smart air-conditioner, dishwasher, fridge, washing machine or dryer as part of the internet of things but I’m sure they would all have their own remotes.

Ideally, Apps written for smartphones could take over all these requirements by replacing the remotes without the need to buy new devices.

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Hi everyone,

Phil here from IF. Thanks for the intro Viveka!

As Viveka mentioned, we’re conducting a little user research and we’d love to hear from you about the electrical products in your homes.

To help us get started, we’ve created a form with a simple question for you -“Tell us your five most frequently used electrical products at home”.

You can find the form here

We’re looking forward to hearing from you.


I have bought a Kobo, which I thought would make my life simpler when I travel. But the organiser Kobo app refuses to work on my laptop because .dll files are ‘missing’ - I have downloaded them and saved to C Drive, and spent days trying to get the computer to recognise them, but no luck. That means a trip to the IT fixit people.

I have a small laptop that I love, but the connection to the internet where I travel to is like when being ‘throttled’ by the ISP - so I bought a Samsung tablet. I was assured by the salesman that a powered hub would work with the tablet - so far I have bought 3, and the tablet won’t recognise any of them.

In an effort to keep my sanity I have so far refused to download the latest Sony Xperia update as many people report problems - and there is no going back.

So glad I gave up trying to keep up with TVs, DVD players and multiple remotes. I number only 1, so can watch on computer.

Thanks @viveka for the introduction! I’m Ian, I work with @LangPhil at IF in London. We’d love for the CHOICE community to get involved with our collaboration into making tools that help people better understand the things they buy.

To get us started, please answer this questionnaire. We’ll get in touch with some people afterwards to participate in an exciting research experiment!

Have a good weekend everyone.

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The computer equipment is not a problem. What is a problem is the big TV in the loungeroom. We have a Telstra T-Box connected to it and prior to us moving the house/home-business broadband across to Telstra-DOT everything was fine. Now we don’t have the same connection we can’t connect the T-Box to the TV. When we agreed to Telstra-DOT/NBN we were not aware that we would not be able to connect the T-Box with the TV due to not being broadband. Why is everything so complicated. Anyway, I have stopped watching TV and literally only use it to watch DVD’s. Suits me as I can’t stand watching free to air or cable. Listening to news shows repeat everything every 15 to 30 minutes and mindless reality TV shows is not my family’s cup of tea. The T-Box is outdated now. We either buy DVD or download (legally) what we want to watch. I do have two remotes for the DVD player & TV though, but I’m used to it. I could buy a universal one, but that’s just wasting money to me.

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Our connected equipment works fine. What doesn’t work fine is the cheap and nasty Modem/Router supplied to us by Telstra for our NBN connection. It keeps forgetting how to Internet and needs restarting multiple times a day. From the looks of things via Google searches this is a common problem with Telstra supplied modems and a lot of people only get a solution by purchasing one that doesn’t have Telstra written on the base of it. Waiting for our new NBN ready modem to arrive via courier on Monday, which should also give us better WiFi speeds as well.

We have six people in our house who all use laptops, ipads, smart phones, streaming TV services, game consoles, etc, which all works fine until the modem cuts the Internet off for everyone, even though it shows everything as a green light. Turning it off, waiting ten seconds, then restarting it is the only fix that works.

I’m sick to death of not being able to stream movies on a Friday night to Monday morning… My ADSL2+ is fine at other times but the weekends kill me.

So we got our new NBN ready modem/router and had to take it back. The WiFi signal was pathetic with black spots in various parts of the house. It refused to give Internet access to one of the laptops in the house, even though it would happily connect with it via WiFi. After a few hours of double the WiFi speed we would normally get, it then slowed down to speeds that would make dial up look like a better option. Resetting the new box to factory settings and restarting multiple times wouldn’t fix it. Also, we found out that the only way to use our home phone was to use the box that Telstra supplied because they don’t allow voice data to flow through third party modem/routers. So we’re back to the Telstra box which needs restartng several times a day, but at least gives us proper Internet access and voice calls when it isn’t playing up on us.

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One problem I can identify with is that I must have at least 30 passwords for various Logons. Then I have a problem with downloading personal pictures and Videos so that I can play them on my TV or DVD. Too many types of conflicting files, conversions and formats that are not compatible with my devices.

Thanks for letting Phil and I know about the things you’re using and talking about some of your pains with the connected home. We’ve started a new thread where we can discuss the particular questions people may have about their connected products so they can understand them better. We’d love you to join us!

From some of the chats we’ve been having with folks from the community, we’ve found that:

  • Compatibility, before and after you’ve bought a product, is a problem – particularly @gds with remote controls and interfering wireless devices and @irakip with file formats across devices
  • Home network problems with speed and reliability, particularly @mudpuppy and @NubglummerySnr
  • Problems with connection to the wider internet, particularly @nerrel.loader and @wombats-hollow
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I have read through all the comments on this site and cringe at the difficulties users face. I built my 1st computer in 1973, it was an X100 Bus system with 8K of memory. I have been teaching networking for about 30 years at a tertiary level. I have a broadband cable connection for almost 20 years and it stays up for weeks at a time. My house is wired with Ethernet that I did myself and used cat6 cable. My TV’s, Amp (Yamaha) DVD (2) PVR are all connected to Ethernet. Our PC’s are all Ethernet and the Laptops too. My Blackberry and wife’s iPhone are WiFi as are our Nexus Tablets. I have 4 IP security cameras and my front gate has an Auto open with IP video camera attached. (I spoke to my son while in Rome through that camera). I run Google cast to both TV’s, have a Plex Server for access by phones, tablets and Laptops. My Kiwik server refuses to work!
I have the new Telstra Router (NETGEAR) attached (download speeds 115Mbps) to my ASUS AC 87RU for the systems that need bandwidth and a Netgear smart switch 16 port 1Gig for all the other wired systems.

My Netgear NAS with 16 Tb is accessed on the LAN as is all the Printers. My main PC runs 64Gb memory on a 2011 MB with an i7 CPU.

I control all the media players with a Phillips Pronto Ts6400 and while it is old tech it will take 254 remotes and I can have 254 pages of controls for each remote! And it has WiFi access too. My cell phones are connected to my Uniden cordless system. I have repeaters for the WiFi network and the cordless phones throughout the house.

My Hunter Pro C sprinkler system is attached to the network and controlled by a Hunter Solar Sync that also takes information from my weather station. My solar panels are attached through a Wattson/Holmes interface to my main server. If I can get an internetwork connection anywhere in the world I have access to my system.
I did this system as part of my teaching/lecturing requirements and while many readers will think disparaging thoughts, I put this up to let people know that a smart house is possible but you have to spend money and get only the best equipment and use Ethernet where possible. All my activity on my Nexus and Blackberry are sent by WiFi to my main server. If this system crashes after I die, my sons have been given instructions to pull as many systems off the network as possible as I doubt there are many techies that could solve/understand the system at a reason cost.

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The Kiwik unit with an Android app has potential and there are a number of apps that should work. I have almost got mine working. Also Philips made a system called Pronto that will take about 254 remotes. But both of these systems take a while to get to work. The Pronto is old tech, but there are some available on eBay. Just understand that the Pronto will take about a week to get working as you wade through the programming and screen icons. But once it is working it will not stop until you drop it. Some of the top end Philips iPronto systems ($800+) are amazing systems but they will take about a month of mucking around to get to work and understand the operating system. But again, once setup are very reliable. the Logitech stuff promised lots, but didn’t live up to the hype.

Hi everyone, Phil here from IF.

I just wanted to share with you the first blog post from our recent work around with CHOICE.

Understanding the things we use.

If you’ve got any response, thoughts or ideas, let us know below.

Thank again

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